By LESLIE COLLINS
February 19, 2014
Driving down Independence Avenue, I felt slightly apprehensive. It was Christmas Eve and bitterly cold, and the bold, multicolored buildings glaringly stood out against the pale sky. Signs and advertisements in foreign languages plastered the storefronts of businesses, and careless graffiti marked its territory. Did I belong here? Could I work here?
More than anything, I wanted to work in a city, to be a part of something bigger.
But Historic Northeast?
I wasn’t quite sure.
But, I found the foreignness intriguing, and I liked how Northeast News Publisher Michael Bushnell voiced his adamance of promoting the positives of this “small town” community tucked inside Kansas City. In 2010, I said, “yes” to the managing editor position at Northeast News, and I have no regrets.
Attached to Historic Northeast is a stigma, one that’s been brewing for years and one that tries to overshadow Northeast’s future and its glorious past as one of Kansas City’s first suburbs, a suburb that lumber baron R.A. Long and other prominent individuals called home.
When I’ve told people I work in Historic Northeast, I can’t tell you how many times their eyes have widened and they proclaim how dangerous the area is. There’s a stark contrast of perception versus reality. According to the Truman Plaza Area Plan, which encompasses Historic Northeast and a few outlying neighborhoods, crime is trending downward. In 1992 in the Northeast area, there were 1,157 aggravated assaults, 338 armed robberies, 2,054 cases of larceny, 2,361 non-aggravated assaults, 1,096 cases of vandalism and 1,484 cases of residential burglaries. In 2012, there were 468 aggravated assaults, 241 armed robberies, 1,466 cases of larceny, 916 cases of non-aggravated assaults, 686 cases of vandalism and 1,047 cases of residential burglaries. Homicides stayed at 20 in both 1992 and 2012. Is Northeast perfect? No. But, we are improving.
For those who lament how Northeast “used to be,” I’d like to remind them that no matter where you live, things change, and you can either be part of the change to propel your community forward or you can sit idly and lament how things used to be. I encourage you to be active, to spread the good news of Northeast like wildfire. Let’s not be our own worst enemy and simply complain about the negatives to those around us, perpetuating Northeast’s stigma. Northeast has a plethora of positives. Once a month Scarritt Renaissance neighbors meet at different Northeast restaurants to support local business and solidify relationships with their neighbors. This past Valentine’s Day, a group of Pendleton Heights residents gave up their night to babysit free of charge and serve as designated drivers to allow other couples in the neighborhood with kids to have a night of romance. The Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) is continuing to gain momentum and one of the CID safety ambassadors was instrumental in apprehending a homicide suspect minutes after the crime occurred. NorthEast Alliance Together (NEAT) is meeting regularly and creating solid action steps for improving the area. These are just a few examples. Northeast is filled with passionate people who are ready to break through the stigma and create positive change.
I am proud and honored to have worked in Historic Northeast for three years, to see up close and personal the change that has come and the initiatives that are inching closer to fruition.
With that said, this is my last official issue with the Northeast News; one of my goals has been to work for a larger publication and I have accepted the web producer position at the Kansas City Business Journal. I want to thank all of those in the Northeast who have taken me in and have shown me the real Northeast. This is not good-bye. This is simply, “I’ll see you around.”